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An Independent Woman [NOOK Book]


Julia Gracey has always lived by the rule that women should stand on their own two feet. But whenever there's a problem, Professor Gerard van der Maes always seems to be on hand with the perfect solution! Gerard seems determined to steal Julia's heart--yet she's just as adamant that he won't take over her life. But when Julia is about to lose her home, Gerard offers one final proposition that she finds impossible to resist--marriage!

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An Independent Woman

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Julia Gracey has always lived by the rule that women should stand on their own two feet. But whenever there's a problem, Professor Gerard van der Maes always seems to be on hand with the perfect solution! Gerard seems determined to steal Julia's heart--yet she's just as adamant that he won't take over her life. But when Julia is about to lose her home, Gerard offers one final proposition that she finds impossible to resist--marriage!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426827938
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 1/2/2009
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 180,851
  • File size: 181 KB

Meet the Author

Romance author Betty Neels died peacefully in hospital on June 7, 2001, aged 91. Her career with Harlequin spanned 30 years, and she continued to write into her 90th year.

To her millions of fans around the world, Betty Neels epitomized romance, and yet she began writing almost by accident. She had retired from nursing, but her inquiring mind had no intention of vegetating, and her new career was born when she heard a lady in her local library bemoaning the lack of good romance novels.

There was little in Betty's background to suggest that she might eventually become a much-loved novelist. She was born in Devon to a family with firm roots in the civil service. She said she had a blissfully happy childhood and teenage years, which stood her in good stead for the tribulations to come with the Second World War. She was sent away to boarding school, and then went on to train as a nurse, gaining her SRN and SCM, that is, State Registered Nurse and State Certificate of Midwifery.

In 1939 she was called up to the Territorial Army Nursing Service, which later became the Queen Alexandra Reserves, and was sent to France with the Casualty Clearing Station. This comprised eight nursing sisters, including Betty, to 100 men! In other circumstances, she thought that might have been quite thrilling!

When France was invaded in 1940, all the nursing sisters managed to escape in the charge of an army major, undertaking a lengthy and terrifying journey to Boulogne in an ambulance. They were incredibly fortunate to be put on the last hospital ship to be leaving the port of Boulogne.

But Betty's war didn't end there, for she was posted to Scotland, and then on to Northern Ireland, where she met her Dutch husband. He was a seaman aboard a minesweeper, which was bombed. He survived and was sent to the south of Holland to guard the sluices. However, when they had to abandon their post, they were told to escape if they could, and along with a small number of other men, he marched into Belgium. They stole a ship and managed to get it across the Channel to Dover before being transferred to the Atlantic run on the convoys.

Sadly he became ill, and that was when he was transferred to hospital in Northern Ireland, where he met Betty. They eventually married, and were blessed with a daughter. They were posted to London, but were bombed out. As with most of the population, they made the best of things, and when the war finally ended, she and her husband were repatriated to Holland. As his family had believed he had died when his ship went down, this was a very emotional homecoming.

The small family lived in Holland for 13 years, and Betty resumed her nursing career there. When they decided to return to England, Betty continued her nursing and when she eventually retired she had reached the position of night superintendent.

Her first book, Sister Peters in Amsterdam, was published in 1969, and by dint of often writing four books a year, she eventually completed 134 books. She was always quite firm upon the point that the Dutch doctors who frequently appeared in her stories were not based upon her husband, but rather upon an amalgam of several of the doctors she met while nursing in Holland.

She received a great deal of fan mail, and there was always a comment upon the fascinating places she visited in her stories. Quite often those of her fans fortunate enough to visit Holland did use her information as an itinerary for their travels!

She was always amazed and touched that her books were so widely appreciated. She never sought plaudits and remained a very private person, but it made her very happy to know that she brought such pleasure to so many readers, while herself gaining a quiet joy from spinning her stories.

It is perhaps a reflection of her upbringing in an earlier time that the men and women who peopled her stories have a kindliness and good manners, coupled to honesty and integrity, that is not always present in our modern world. Her myriad of fans found a warmth and a reassurance of a better world in her stories, along with characters who touched the heart, which is all and more than one could ask of a romance writer. She will be greatly missed.

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Read an Excerpt

The street, like hundreds of other streets in that part of London, was shabby but genteelly so, for the occupants of the small turn-of-the-century houses which lined it had done their best; there were clean net curtains at the windows and the paintwork was pristine, even if badly in need of a fresh coat. Even so, the street was dull under a leaden sky and slippery with the cold sleet.

The girl, Ruth, looking out of the window of one of the houses, frowned at the dreary view and said over her shoulder, 'I don't think I can bear to go on living here much longer…'

'Well, you won't have to—Thomas will get the Senior Registrar's post and you'll marry and be happy ever after.'

The speaker who answered, Julia, was kneeling on the shabby carpet, pinning a paper pattern to a length of material. She was a pretty girl, with a quantity of russet hair tied back carelessly with a bootlace, a tip-tilted nose and a wide mouth. Her eyes under thick brows were grey, and as she got to her feet it was apparent that she was a big girl with a splendid figure.

She wandered over to the window to join her sister. 'A good thing that Dr Goodman hasn't got a surgery this morning; you've no need to go out.'

'The evening surgery will be packed to the doors…'

They both turned their heads as a door opened and another girl, Monica, came in. A very beautiful girl, almost as beautiful as her elder sister. For while Julia, she of the russet hair, was pretty, the other two were both lovely, with fair hair and blue eyes. Ruth was taller than Monica, and equally slender, but they shared identical good looks.

'I'm off. Though heaven knows how many children will turn up in this weather.' Monicasmiled. 'But George was going to look in…'

George was the parish curate, young and enthusiastic, nice-looking in a rather crumpled way and very much in love with Monica.

They chorused goodbyes as she went away again.

'I'm going to wash my hair,' said Ruth, and Julia got down onto her knees again and picked up the scissors.

The front doorbell rang as she did so, and Ruth said from the door, 'That will be the milkman; I forgot to pay him…I'll go.'

Professor Gerard van der Maes stood on the doorstep and looked around him. He had, in an unguarded moment, offered to deliver a package from his registrar Thomas, to that young man's fiancée—something which, it seemed, it was vital she received as quickly as possible. Since the registrar was on duty, and unlikely to be free for some time, and the Professor was driving himself to a Birmingham hospital and would need to thread his way through the northern parts of London, a slight deviation from his route was of little consequence.

Now, glancing around him, he rather regretted his offer. It had taken him longer than he had expected to find the house and he found the dreary street not at all to his taste. From time to time he had listened to Thomas's diffident but glowing remarks about his fiancée, but no one had told him that she lived in such a run-down part of the city.

The girl who answered the door more than made up for the surroundings. If this was Ruth, then Thomas must indeed be a happy man.

He held out a hand. 'Van der Maes, a colleague of Thomas. He wanted you to have a parcel and I happened to be going this way.'

'Professor van der Maes.' Ruth beamed up at him. 'How kind of you.' She added, not quite truthfully, 'I was just going to make coffee…'

He followed her into the narrow hall and into the living room and Ruth said, 'Julia…'

'If it's money you want there's some in my purse…' Julia didn't look up. 'Don't stop me or I'll cut too much off.'

'It's Professor van der Maes.'

'Not the old man from across the street?' Julia snipped carefully. 'I knew he'd break a leg one day, going outside in his slippers.'

Ruth gave the Professor an apologetic glance. 'We have a visitor, Julia.'

Julia turned round then, and looked at the pair of them standing in the doorway. Ruth, as lovely as ever, looked put out and her companion looked amused. Julia got to her feet, looking at him. Not quite her idea of a professor: immensely tall and large in his person, dark hair going grey, heavy brows above cold eyes and a nose high-bridged and patrician above a thin mouth. Better a friend than an enemy, thought Julia. Not that he looked very friendly…

She held out a hand and had it gently crushed.

'I'll make the coffee,' said Ruth, and shut the door behind her.

'Do sit down,' said Julia, being sociable.

Instead he crossed the room to stand beside her and look down at the stuff spread out on the carpet.

'It looks like a curtain,' he observed.

'It is a curtain,' said Julia snappishly. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that by the time she had finished with it it would be a dress suitable to wear to an annual dance which the firm she worked for gave to its employees. A not very exciting occasion, but it was to be held at one of London's well-known hotels and that, combined with the fact that it was mid-February and life was a bit dull, meant that the occasion merited an effort on her part to make the best of herself.

She remembered her manners. 'Do you know Thomas? I suppose you're from the hospital. He's Ruth's fiancé. He's not ill or anything?'

'I know Thomas and I am at the same hospital. He is in splendid health.'

'Oh, good. But horribly overworked, I suppose?'

'Yes, indeed.' His eye fell on the curtain once more. 'You are a skilled needlewoman?'

'Only when I am desperate. What do you do at the hospital? Teach, I suppose, if you are a professor?'

'I do my best…'

'Of what? Professor of what?'


'So you're handy with a needle too!' said Julia, and before he could answer that Ruth came in with the coffee.

'Getting to know each other?' she asked cheerfully. 'Thank you for bringing the parcel, Professor. I'm sorry you won't see Monica—she runs the nursery school here. Luckily I've got the morning off from the surgery, and Julia is always here, of course. She works at home—writes verses for greetings cards.'

Ruth handed round the coffee, oblivious of Julia's heavy frown.

'How very interesting,' observed the Professor, and she gave him a quick look, suspecting that he was amused. Which he was, although nothing of it showed on his face.

Ruth asked diffidently. 'I suppose Thomas hasn't heard if he's got that senior registrar's job? I know he'd phone me, but if he's busy…'

'I think I can set your mind at rest. He should hear some time today. He's a good man and I shall be glad to have him in my team in a senior capacity.' He smiled at Ruth. 'Does that mean that you will marry?'

She beamed at him. 'Yes, just as soon as we can find somewhere to live.' She went on chattily, 'An aunt left us this house, and we came here to live when Mother and Father died, but I think we shall all be glad when we marry and can leave it.'

'Your other sister—Monica?' encouraged the Professor gently.

'Oh, she's engaged to the local curate; he's just waiting to get a parish. And Julia's got an admirer—a junior partner in the firm she works for. So you see, we are all nicely settled.'

He glanced at Julia. She didn't look at all settled, for she was indignantly pink and looked as though she wanted to throw something. She said coldly, 'I'm sure the Professor isn't in the least interested in us, Ruth.' She picked up the coffee pot. 'More coffee, Professor?'

Her tone dared him to say yes and delay his departure.

He had a second cup, and she hated him. And she thought he would never go.

When he did, he shook hands, with the observation that the dress would be a success.

Ruth went with him to the door. When she came back she said, 'He's got a Rolls; you ought to see it.' She glanced at Julia's kneeling form. 'You were a bit rude, dear. And he's such a nice man.'

Julia snipped savagely at a length of curtain. 'I hope I never meet him again.'

'Well, I don't suppose you will. He's a bit grand for us…'

'There's nothing wrong with a rising young surgeon and a member of the clergy.' She'd almost added and a junior partner in a greetings card firm,' but she didn't, for Oscar, accepted as her admirer by everyone but herself, didn't quite fit. Curiosity got the better of her.

'Why do you say he's grand?'

'He's at the very top of the tree in the medical world and he's got a Dutch title—comes from an ancient family with lots of money. Never talks about himself. Thomas says he's a very private man.'

'Huh,' said Julia. 'Probably no one's good enough for him.'

Ruth commented mildly, 'You do dislike him, don't you?'

Julia began to wield her scissors again. 'Dislike him? I don't even know him. Shall we have Welsh rarebit for lunch? I'll make some scones for tea. Monica will be ravenous when she gets home; she never has time to eat her sandwiches. And if you're going to the shops you could bring some steak and kidney and I'll make a pudding.' She added, 'Filling and cheap.'

She spoke without rancour; the three Gracey sisters, living together for the sake of economy in the poky little house a long-dead aunt had bequeathed to them, had learned to live frugally. The house might be theirs, but there were rates and taxes, gas and electricity, clothes and food to be paid for. None of them had been trained to do anything in the business world, having been left suddenly with nothing but memories of their mother and father, killed in a car accident, and a carefree life in a pleasant old house in the country with never a thought of money worries.

It had been Julia who'd got them organised, refusing to be daunted by unexpected debts, selling their home to pay off the mortgage, arguing with bank managers, solicitors, and salvaging the remnants of her father's ill-advised investments. Once in their new home, it had been she who had urged the rather shy Ruth to take the part-time job as a receptionist to the local doctor while she looked for work for herself and Monica joined the staff of the local nursery school. But Julia had had no luck until, searching through the ads in the local paper, she'd seen one from the greetings card company.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, she had decided, and had sat down to compose a batch of verses and send them off. Much to her surprise, the firm had taken her on. It was badly paid, but it meant that she could work at home and do the housekeeping and the cooking. And they managed very well.

Ruth had met Thomas when she had gone to the hospital to collect some urgent path. lab. Results for Dr Goodman, and soon they would marry. Monica, although she liked children, had never been quite sure that she wanted to stay at home, especially in such alien surroundings, but then George had come one day to tell the children Bible stories and all ideas of going out into the glamorous world to find a job more to her liking had faded away. They would have to wait to marry, of course, until George had a parish. In the meantime she was happy.

Which left Julia, twenty-four years old, bursting with life and energy. Because she had a happy nature she didn't allow herself to dwell on what might have been, but wrote her sentimental little verses, kept the house clean and tidy and, being clever with her needle, dressed herself in a style which, while not being the height of fashion, was a passable imitation.

It was fortunate, she supposed, that Oscar, her admirer—for he was only that at the moment, although he promised to be rather more when it was convenient for him to be so—had absolutely no taste in clothes. That horrible professor might sneer in a well-mannered way at the curtain, but Oscar wouldn't suspect. Indeed, even if he did, he would probably approve, for he was of a frugal nature when it came to spending money. He was persistent too. She had tried, over and over again, to shake him off, to suggest that she would make him a most unsuitable wife, but he refused to be shaken and, despite the countless excuses she had given, she was committed to attend the annual dance given by the greetings card firm.

Rightly, Ruth and Monica had urged her to go and enjoy herself. But neither of them had met Oscar, and she had given way because she knew that they both felt unhappy at the idea of her being left alone when they married. When she allowed herself to think about it she felt unhappy about that too.

She put away her sewing and started on the household chores, and found herself thinking about the Professor. He seemed a tiresome man, and she suspected that it would be hard to get the better of him. Probably he was horrid to his patients.

Professor van der Maes, contrary to Julia's idea, was treating the endless stream of patients attending his clinic with kindness and patience, his quiet voice reassuring, his smile encouraging. He was a tired man, for he worked too hard, but no patient had ever found him uncaring. But that was a side which he seldom showed to anyone else. The nursing staff who worked for him quickly learnt that he would stand no nonsense, that only their best efforts would suit him, and as for his students—he represented the goal they hoped to obtain one day. A good word from him was worth a dozen from anyone else, just as a quiet reprimand sent them into instant dejection. They called him the old man behind his back, and fiercely defended any criticism anyone was foolish enough to utter.

The Professor remained unmoved by other people's opinion of him, good or bad. He was an excellent surgeon and he loved his work, and he had friends who would be his for life, but he had no use for casual acquaintances. He had a social life when his work permitted, and was much sought after as a dinner party guest. Since he was unmarried, he could have taken his pick of any of the women he met. But, although he was a pleasant companion, he showed no interest in any of them. Somewhere in the world, he supposed, there was the woman he would fall in love with and want for his wife, but he was no longer young and he would probably end his days as a crusty old bachelor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    betty rocks

    Betty Neels books are the bomb, no feeling soiled after you read them! Pure romance, and the rest is left to your imagination :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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